Sunday 16 June 2019

Dear Mary: My husband is abusive to me - but I just can't leave him

Mary O’Conor

My husband is abusive - mainly verbal but there are times when it is physical. We tried counselling but he always twists things to be my fault and when the counselling started to get deep he walked away and promised to change - but that didn't last very long.

He is very good at charming people so I'm so annoyed counselling didn't do more to make him realise the impact this is having on me and the kids. It seemed to be an approach of getting authorities involved rather than working through the issues in his and my head, which should be the main reason for counselling.

Every special occasion and most weekends are spent walking on eggshells or being ignored but I really don't want to leave him or the lifestyle we have built together, or having our kids shipped between households.

I just want him to change to the loving man I met and married. Please help.

Mary replies: I find this email quite disturbing. You have an abusive husband - both verbally and physically - and yet you seem to enable this to continue by not taking the advice of your counsellors.

There can be no question of working through issues in either of your heads when you and your children are in danger.

It is my experience that counselling services prioritise at all times the safety of their clients, their children and families and have zero tolerance policies towards abuse of any kind.

Did counsellors suggest a safety plan to you for you and your children? Have you chosen to ignore this plan, and to instead take a more cerebral approach?

You shouldn't have to be walking on eggshells most weekends while your husband is around, nor should your children have to witness it. This is not normal behaviour. The "loving man you married" was hiding a much darker side when he was dating you and he was successful as you subsequently married him.

You have seen evidence of how he can charm people, as he once charmed you, and this is such a familiar description of the abuser outside the home.

He is not going to change, no matter how much you want him to because he has always been this way, you were just not aware of it. Please take steps to ensure your safety by contacting any agency which was suggested to you while you were in counselling

I realise this is not the advice that you wanted to hear, but I urge you to do this before you become yet another statistic at the hands of an abusive husband.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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